The Evil Continent The Evil Continent
Part of Norman Daly’s exhibition. Photo by Sahir Ugur Eren

The Evil Continent

Catastrophes, Witchcraft, and (Un)Happy Islands at the Istanbul Biennial
Stach Szabłowski
time 17 minutes

The Seventh Continent keeps on growing. It feeds on plastic waste dumped by all the people who live on the other six. Will it take over the entire world, turning into a new Pangea – no longer the seventh, but the only continent, made of plastic? So far, it has reached Turkey and become the focus guest of the big fat 16th Istanbul Biennial.

Mornings in Istanbul are epic; the sun shines through thick layers of smog, lending the light surreal hues. You don’t need to set an alarm in order to see this spectacle; the streets of the Beyoğlu district in the city centre are clogged already before dawn and stay this way until late at night. The noise of engines and horns makes the pollution dust tremble in the air.

No wonder the Biennial opens with a piece made from smog, no less. Croatian artist Dora Budor encapsulated polluted air in large glass containers, before adding dramatic lights, making the dust dance to the rhythm of the vibrations transmitted from the building sites nearby. How beautiful they look, those clouds of colourful chemical mist. Nicolas Bourriaud, the exhibition curator, notes how the installation brings to mind the eerie atmosphere of William Turner’s paintings. The English painter, known as the precursor of impressionism, left his mark on the pages of art history as the first artist who painted smog back in the 19th century, when the industrial era was still young. Bourriaud suggests that we see Turner as the father of Anthropocenic art, stemming out of the new geological era that holds humans at its centre, albeit not necessarily in a good way. In this way, the participants of the Biennial – all the artists invited here to consider what humans have done to the world – are William Turner’s children.

Charles Avery, fot. fot. Sahir Ugur Eren
Charles Avery, fot. fot. Sahir Ugur Eren

The last time I visited the Istanbul Biennial was in 2013, when the exhibition took place in the shadow of protests and riots. It all started with the public blockade preventing the cutting of trees in Gezi Park, a patch of green in the heart of the city, near Taksim Square. The conflict ended with a clash of the liberal, secular Turkey against the increasingly conservative and authoritarian rule of President Erdoğan; it was a conflict that lasted for a month. During that time, it


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Also read:

War, Never Again? War, Never Again?
“Never again war”, Wilhelm Sasnal, 2018. Photo by Marek Gardulski; source: Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw

War, Never Again?

A Century of Anti-Fascist Art
Stach Szabłowski

The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw is holding an exhibition on traditional and contemporary anti-fascism in art.

It is September. We are commemorating the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. We are in a city that was razed to the ground by fascists and we have a crisis in democracy. Can you imagine a better time, location or circumstances in which to put on an art exhibition against war and fascism? The title of the exhibition sounds a little like moral blackmail. Never Again. Art against War and Fascism in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Can one possibly disagree with such art? Who supports war? Who is in favour of fascism? Even a decade ago, the answer to these questions would have been obvious to the point of being boring. However, we are living in interesting times in which the obvious of yesterday isn’t so obvious any more.

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